Monday, April 28, 2008


Don't fly Delta Airlines. Just...don't. Trust me.

Update on Some People

I earlier wrote up a brief profile of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a very wily warlord in Afghanistan who has survived and prospered through the turmoil following the Russian invasion. Hekmatyar has drifted into the camp opposing the Western occupation of Afghanistan, and has claimed responsibility for the recent attack on Afghan President Hamid Karzai, apparently carried out in conjunction with the renascent Taliban in that country.

Another man (with a much cleaner record) who interests me, and who remains the most qualified Democrat who wants to be President, came up in the news recently. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson visited Colombia to work on the release Americans being held hostage by the right-wing paramilitary FARC. Here's hoping that he is as successful there as he has been in the past freeing Americans in Sudan, Cuba, Iraq, and North Korea. Sure, Richardson will never be the high school football coach you wish you'd had, but any president who doesn't appoint him Secretary of State or Vice President is a drooling moron.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

More silence

On the Sean Bell verdict and ensuing anger, note Obama's silence. On the racially tinged incidents of Jena, Louisiana, let's remember that Obama was silent.

He spoke up when Jeremiah Wright's speeches started hurting his poll numbers, though.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

GOP: You are what you wear

Occasionally, Republicans accidentally say what's on their mind, and it helps clarify some of their attitudes.

Apparently there are not one, but two Republicans competing for the right to be creamed by the Democratic US Senate candidate this fall (whether it be Ed O'Reilly, or the guy who's there now). The vicious competition over the 178 or so votes available in the Republican state primary has heated up, with Jeff Beatty attacking his opponent as an "insider". Of course, "insider" is a fightin' term, as it connotes experience and competence, two things which are anathema to much of the Republican party, and a fair plank of the Democratic Party as well. Beatty's opponent is Jim Ogonowski, best known for being the guy who lost to Niki Tsongas for the open Massachusetts seat in Congress. In Mass GOP circles, such a loss qualifies you to lose in higher-profile races in more spectacular fashion.

Anyways, Beatty noted that Ogonowski has gone down to Washington for orders advice, and has gotten money from the Republican head of the Senate. A serious charge indeed, one that will I'm sure be refuted on a relevant, factual basis by Ogonowski. What say you, Jim?

Ogonowski, a Dracut, Mass., hay farmer, shrugged off Beatty's charge in a phone interview with AP on Friday, saying he had been up since 5 o'clock driving a tractor on his family farm to fertilize the fields.

If you could see me right now with my farm boots on -- I'm wearing a snowmobile suit because it's cold on a tractor and I've got a wool hat on," he said. "I don't think anybody could consider me a career politician. That's funny."

In your face, Beatty!! Ogonowski is obviously not an insider, because he wears wool hats! How many Washington insiders do you know that wear snowsuits ever ever in their lifetime? None? Exactly! If Ogonowski were an insider, he'd be wearing a suit at seven in the morning. Or at least he'd lie on a telephone interview about what he's wearing, considering that he could lie without fear of getting caught on this one!

Nobody can overcome the famous Republican argument-by-clothing tack, whether it be George Bush's fake fly-boy suits, or Reagan's brand new cowboy hats. Give it up Jeff...go find your own race to lose.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

McCain on the Offensive: Health Care

New York Times, October 24, 2008


Thirty-three. An outraged John McCain, campaigning like a man twenty years his younger, is at his most exercised when spitting out the number 33. Is this related to tax cuts? Fiscal responsibility, campaign finance, or another issue upon which he has built his finely crafted persona?

No. It's health care. McCain refers to the fact that the United Nations ranks the United States thirty-third on infant mortality in the world. Typical is a visibly exercised McCain in Portland, Oregon last week: "Thirty-third?? You're telling me that America can overthrow Saddam Hussein, we can built a nation of freedom and opportunity, but we lose more babies than Slovenia? Than Cuba? An American baby has less chance of living than a Cuban baby...and if he does live, chances are he'll die before a baby born in Bosnia!"

This radical change has clearly left the Democratic Party, and its nominee Senator Barack Obama, flummoxed. With McCain neutralizing health care as an advantage, the Democrats have been casting about wildly for an issue to balance it. Given the foreign policy lightness of the Obama-Feingold ticket, attempts to focus the debate on Iraq have failed. McCain is eating away steadily at Democratic advantages in key demographics, including married women.

McCain has hinted at an upcoming proposal for dealing with what he decries as "unacceptable standards that leave the most vulnerable Americans without adequate care." This turn of events has raised eyebrows in the medical community, but McCain recently dismissed these concerns, stating at a rally in Pennsylvania that "I want to solve our health-care problems; Gore wants to subsidize them. I will work for families. He will work for the entrenched interests that fund his campaigns. I will challenge the status quo."

Unless the Democrats can regain this issue, the outlook appears bleak for Obama. With a significant fraction of "health-care voters" moving to his column, Dr. McCain may soon end up making house-calls at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Part of my NPLB series

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bloggus Interruptus

I will be on vacation this week, so it will be quiet on the blog.

If my recent posts are as irrelevant and misdirected as Hari Seldon's remarks during the invasion of the Mule, you'll know why.


If you did not get that last reference, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you're cooler than me, and the bad news is that you're missing out on some good reading.

If you did get the last reference, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you've read some good stuff, and the bad news is that you're almost as uncool as me.

McCain: American Health Care Unacceptable

Part of my NPLB Series

Wall Street Journal, October 4th, 2008

In a political tacking maneuver that caught many observers off-guard, Republican nominee John McCain opened a new front on his electoral effort: health care. In a major address before a regional audience of the American Medical Association, McCain spoke about his dedication to improving medical care in the United States.

"This nation cries for reform of health care," McCain remarked in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "I will deliver it. I intend to close the achievement gap between services for the poor and the rich. We must insist on accountability in order to make sure that medical treatment works."

McCain pressed his point, adding that "America is the greatest country on Earth. Why is our life expectancy 29th in the world? When did we accept that an American should enjoy less a life than someone in France, or Jordan...or Bosnia? This is the greatest country on Earth, and we should have the greatest health care system on Earth!"

In a later conversation with journalists, McCain expanded on his remarks while making clear that he sought no threat to state powers: "I will work with states to work on such systems in return for federal money. We will work with local jurisdictions. I don't think one size fits all. I don't want to be the federal family doctor. I trust local people to make the right decisions."

A McCain aide speaking on background explained "Republicans have ceded health care to Democrats far too long. We have ideas on this issue, and Americans need to know that we can -- and must -- expect better."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A pro-immigrant president in 2009

One thing that's likeable about McCain is that he's pro-immigrant, no matter what mouth-breathing Republicans think. Here's something he said last December that is, well, eminently reasonable:

"It’s the influx of illegals into places where they’ve never seen a Hispanic influence before," McCain told me. "You probably see more emotion in Iowa than you do in Arizona on this issue. I was in a town in Iowa, and twenty years ago there were no Hispanics in the town. Then a meatpacking facility was opened up. Now twenty per cent of their population is Hispanic. There were senior citizens there who were—‘concerned’ is not the word. They see this as an assault on their culture, what they view as an impact on what have been their traditions in Iowa, in the small towns in Iowa. So you get questions like 'Why do I have to punch 1 for English?' 'Why can’t they speak English?' It’s become larger than just the fact that we need to enforce our borders."

Common sense. Uncommon for a Republican.

While I think McCain is far from honest, he's been pro-diversity long enough that I don't think this is insincere, not least of all because this was the exact moment that such an argument would be most damaging to a speaker -- in the heat of the Republican primary. It seems that no matter how things fall, our next president will be anti-torture and pro-immigrant.

It ain't much, but it's something, I guess...

Interesting People: John Warner Gates

True American history essay question on the "teacher test" (MTEL) was to name two inventions that affected the American settlement of the West. The two obvious answers to me were the railroad (duh) and barbed wire. Barbed wire is one of those things that seem in retrospect to be obvious...put little things that hurt on a piece of wire, and that will keep people from getting in, or more importantly in those days, cattle from getting out.

Though an invention that simple rarely has one official inventor, a driving force behind the adoption of barbed wire was one John Warner Gates. Gates emerged as a marketer of the new product and sold it across the country in the mid- to late 1800s.. His role in spreading the use of barbed wire not only changed American history, but it gave him a bankroll.

That's where it gets interesting.

Gates was a high roller when being a high roller meant something. In fact, the most difficult thing is divining truth from legend about Gates. His nickname was "Bet-A-Million", quite a sobriquet considering that one mil would be worth about $25 million today. The legend grows from a $50,000 wager that netted Gates $600,000...not a million, but not chump change either. While betting on a horse running those odds isn't suicide, it was quite a risk. Gates became a gambler for whom the public cheered.

Gates would bet with all the big rollers of the day, including J.P.Morgan. The two were business familiars and would lay a friendly wager or two. According to legend, the two made a wager that would have bankrupted Gates. He pleaded on his knees to be dispensed from his obligation, which J.P. Morgan agreed to do provided Gates left New York for good.

So Gates went down to Texas and found oil, working his way back up to an indolent lifestyle. Strange that this man has almost disappeared from American consciousness after his lavish and bold lifestyle. Maybe if his family had not nixed the idea of a biopic staring Bing Crosby, that wouldn't be the case today...

New series coming up

I'll be starting a new series called "NPLB" this week. I want to clarify that this series is entirely satirical, and any "articles" from news organizations that I include in the series are fictional. Links within those articles will be to existing work on a parallel, but different topic. All posts with the NPLB tag are satirical and are created from fiction though they may include living people.*

It'll make more sense when I start the series, but consider this the disclaimer unto which I point if people don't get it.

*Which is why this post doesn't have the NPLB tag, even though it's about NPLB. So really it should have the tag, but that would make the previous post a lie...aarrggghh!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dang it

You win some, you lose some. Bush's porteur-d'eau (waterboy) in France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, got pasted pretty good in local elections, and Spain returned a Socialist government unlikely to be friendly to Bush, all last month.

Things seemed great, but now we end up with right-winger Silvio Berlusconi in power in Italy again after the latest elections. Berlusconi is on the right, and was a minor partner in Bush's Elektran Adventures in Iraq. Of course, "do you like Bush?" is way down on the list of priorities of most foreign voters. However, I don't like the idea of the minority of Americans currently in control of the government getting much support abroad. The less help they get firming up their fantasies, the better.

While Berlusconi was installed by an electorate uninspired by its choices, and disappointed in a leftist government that had fallen, I don't like seeing somebody so thoroughly corrupt in office in any country. He reminds me not a little of Boris Yeltsin minus the drinking problem.

On the positive side, this is Italy, which means the government may well be gone by the time the next president delivers his/her first State of the Union.

Obama and religion

At this point, famous words from the would-be presumed nominee of the Democratic Party:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years...and it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

I want to highlight the phrase "'s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion..."

This surprised me, because my number one problem with Senator Obama has been his willingness to accept Republican framing on religion. He's enthusiastically embraced the idea of Democrats shoving religion into the public sphere for while now. The only line I remember from his 2004 speech at the convention -- during which I was in attendance in the convention hall -- was his remark that "we worship an 'awesome God' in the Blue states." I remember that it gave me the willies: had Obama never met a Hindu, Buddhist, or atheist in his lifetime in these blue states? What was this code for Christian triumphalism doing in the keynote address of the Democratic National Convention? Obama pretty much lost me at that moment, and hasn't done much to win me back on this score.

So I'm oddly relieved by his assertion about people's motives for religion -- not even faith, but religion. It certainly reads to me that Obama sees many as holding onto religion to provide assurance through rough economic times -- it's not heartfelt, but insurance. The statement is a much gentler phrasing of Jesse Ventura's rumination that "organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers."

From a general election perspective, Obama's statement is a groaner. The Democratic Party has poured millions into counteracting this perception of elitism, and Obama just pissed a lot of it away -- while also whizzing on rising Democratic stars such as Heath Shuler, Rocky Anderson, and Jon Tester. This idea that he (and maybe most Democrats) has embraced religion as a naked electoral ploy to coutneract Republican sincerity is not one that Democrats want sustained by anyone on their side.

However, as an American atheist, I find that concept to be a relief. Did I mention that we atheists are not considered that electable? This is why.

Refusing to accept your candidate's apology

We're getting into a wearying cycle regarding apologies. Obama and Clinton are giving several speeches a day, and once in a while something slips out. These two are gong through a meat-grinder, and once in a while they mess up. They end up correcting it -- Obama on the bitterness of small-town folks, Clinton on sniper fire in Bosnia. Eventually, the candidate ends up apolo-gizing.

What is odd is the supporters who refuse to accept the apology. Sure, maybe the apology is more to get the story out of the headlines than heartfelt. But still, if your candidate -- who you're supposedly trying to get into office -- says sorry, shouldn't you just shut up? The Clintonites who maintain that it was actually some sort of sniper fire, or the Obamaites who maintain that he was right to call out people for clinging to religion (more on this tomorrow) aren't helping their candidates.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Obama today

Desperation will do this to a man. Obama condescends to working voters, and Hillary talks up her experiences learning to shoot. Then we have:

"She knows better. Shame on her. Shame on her...she is running around talking about how this is an insult to sportsmen, how she values the Second Amendment. She's talking like she's Annie Oakley.

Ladies and gentlemen, your candidate of hope.

Jumping on the outrage bandwagon

If you haven't heard about this by now, well, now you have...

Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) interrupted atheist activist Rob Sherman during his testimony Wednesday afternoon before the House State Government Administration Committee in Springfield and told him, "What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous . . . it's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!

"This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God," Davis said. "Get out of that seat . . . You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon."

To her credit, a week later Rep. Davis apologized to Sherman, offering the excuse that she'd just received some bad news...which caused her to take it out on the person sitting in front of her shortly thereafter.

Of course, had the person in the seat been Jewish or even gay, this would have been national news. But since it's only an atheist, it's confined to a corner of the Internet. Particularly upsetting to many of us, I'd wager, is the fact that it was a Democrat who spewed this bile. Democrats are still pretty weak on the separation of church and state, and they're the good guys.

Oh, unsurprisingly, she's in Barack Obama's corner. I'm sure this is due to their shared Illinois base and African-American base. And while I'm not into the game where Obama and Clinton are expected to denounce every crazy who they've met, this does little to assuage some of my concerns that Obama is surrendering the issue of separation of church and state to Republicans.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Middleboro Casino: Still a Townie Favorite

Last week, Middleboro had its town elections, the latest barometer reading in citizens' feelings about the proposed Wampanoag casino in Middleboro.

This brings to four the number of times Middleborovians have weighed in on the casino question:

  • At a 2007 summer town meeting, voters approved a proposed casino contract by balloting, margin of 2,387-1,335
  • At the same meeting, voters rejected the general idea of hosting a casino by a show of hands (this seeming contradiction is discussed in the thread referenced above).
  • In September of that year, an effort to recall Middleboro selectmen -- a campaign which quickly centered on the casino deal -- failed, going 0 for 3. Greg Stevens lost by 2 to 1 margin to incumbent Wayne Perkins, while Chair Marcia Brunelle slid into victory by a 1,424-1,303 margin.
  • Last week, pro-casino candidates were re-elected and elected to the Board of Selectmen. Casino enthusiast/apologist Marcia Brunelle was re-elected. More significantly, the open seat on the board was filled by Mimi Duphily with 850 votes. Duphily is a nice lady, but also a casino apologist for the Wampanoag casino effort. She bested casino skeptic Greg Stevens, who received 692 votes.

As we see, there's a small but consistent majority of politically participating Middleboro residents favoring a casino. Currently, the federal and state governments are being asked to blight a region with an enormous complex based on a stable 55-45 majority in its host community and strong opposition in the larger region.

CORRECTION: Original stated that "do-anything casino advocate" Adam Bond had vacated the board of selectman. As a matter of fact, he remains on the board and was just elected chair. Adam Bond, however, remains a do-anything casino advocate. We regret any confusion.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More leadership...from elsewhere

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced today that he would join Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in skipping the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics as a gesture of protest against Chinese barbarities in Tibet and elsewhere. They are joined by a smattering of athletes on this matter, as well as Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Still silent on this: George W Bush, John McCain, and Barack Obama.

Update: Obama and McCain have since followed Clinton's lead. No word from Bush about canceling a trip to the Openers.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bad weatherman, Good weatherman

Jim Cramer's long-lost cousin is a meteorologist:

Makes me want to shoot the monitor. To make up for it, here's a weatherman who is awesome:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Enough is Enough: Boycott the Ceremonies

I've long been a passionate supporter of the Olympics. My first visit to an Olympic host site was in 1993, when I first went to the Olympic Stadium of Montreal at 13 years old. My parents said that I acted as if I was on "holy ground". I wore out my volume of Made in America, Peter Ueberroth's book about the organization of the 1984 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles. In 1996, I had the thrill of attending the Centennial Olympics in Atlanta, including the Opening Ceremonies and several events (I learned everything I know about team handball from a German gentleman).

Since then, I wrote a couple papers on politics in the Olympics -- particularly those of sub-state nationalism -- partially researched with files kept in Montreal from the 1976 Games. I've visited the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

But as much as I revere the Olympic tradition, it does not override human dignity and freedom. It does not override concern for the victims of the Sudanese genocide (perpetrated by a government afloat on Chinese money) not does it override concern for the illegally occupied region of Tibet.

While I think that it is counter-productive and hurtful to assault torch-carriers and officials taking the long trip to Beijing as happened in Paris today, I believe that there are ways to demonstrate our displeasure.

I disagree with a complete boycott of all athletic competitions at the Olympic Games. American athletes have sacrificed too much for too long to be kept from this stage. However, I do stand with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that there needs to be some action that denotes this dissatisfaction. I'm glad to see that she will not attend the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in August 2008, and I'm glad to see French President Nikolas Sarkozy is keeping that possibility open. Skipping this show is the slimmest, safest show of support.

I hope that our President will not attend this ceremony to show American displeasure with the Chinese government's contempt for human rights. I join Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senator Hillary Clinton in calling for Bush to skip these ceremonies, and I only hope anybody who claims passion for human freedom and dignity will do the same.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Series Update: What Would a Brokered Convention Look Like?

My series entitled "What Would A Brokered Convention Look Like?" has been on hiatus lately. "Hiatus" being the word used in media as a synonym for "about to be canceled".

The reason is simply because I can't see an honest gaming out of a brokered convention give how unlikely it seems:

  1. As I correctly predicted here, pressure is growing to knock heads together before the convention and work this out away from the convention floor. In addition to the quote I mentioned earlier from Dean, Senator Reid has come out in favor of settling this before the convention. One superdelegate, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, even floats the idea of a sanctioned back room for superdelegates to throw the nomination to someone away from the convention floor.

  2. I was also correct in that post when I predicted that those who had been committed to someone other than Clinton or Obama would not make it to the convention. Dodd and Richardson have endorsed Obama and instructed their delegates to go over to his side. Meanwhile, Edwards delegates have spat upon the democratic process in Iowa, breaking their word to scramble onto Obama's side. The Obama supporters, meanwhile, welcome these may be bad for democracy, but it's good for Obama. [Update: At a higher level, Edwards regained a delegate he had won. Score one for democracy].

  3. I freely admit that I was wrong about the superdelegates. Quite a few have chosen to break their commitments to Senator Clinton and switch over to Obama, for reasons that vary from personal neediness to approaching a cry for racial solidarity. Tells a lot about how much their word is worth.

For a brokered convention to occur, Clinton would have needed to assemble some momentum with a strong victory in Pennsylvania, perhaps even opening the door for an endorsement from Edwards. But with polls narrowing in Pennsylvania, and Obama's successful silencing of Florida and Michigan, I can't see it happening. While neither candidate will have sufficient pledged delegates, I have to conclude that Obama will have the support of the majority of votes in the convention to be the presumptive nominee at the end of this process, barring a Torricelli-style meltdown. With the only possible third choice (Edwards) being robbed of his voice, I have to conclude that a brokered convention will not happen. I earlier put the odds of a brokered convention at 1 in 3, but given Obama's tiny but consistent lead in money, delegates, and popular vote, I would now lower those odds to 1 in 20.

Friday, April 4, 2008

So there's this show on the teevee...

...and it's awesome. I mean, really awesome. Awesome as the word meant before people started using it to describe everything from hot dogs to carpets.

Any medium can be an art form, not just opera and oil-based paints. If a creator uses the new tools a medium brings to explore human existence in a new way, while still respecting tradition and accessibility, you have art. Television has in my lifetime come up with three series that I loved:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Good v Evil was never so fun. The episodes "Hush" (everyone is silent) and "Once More with Feeling" (singing) were great. Great entertainment that could make you think.
The West Wing: Policymaking was never so dramatic. Chills down my spine with "Two Cathedrals" when Mrs. Laningham walked back into the room. Can't miss stuff.
Battlestar Galactica: An existential examination that often wavers toward the answer no, none of us should really survive. Art.

Battlestar Galactica is starting its final season today. The show has already taken on state/church, abortion politics, rule of law, embryonic research, suicide bombings, euthanasia, and a raft of other contemporary issues. Funny...just shift the setting and you can do all the political commentary you want! The show has done it in ways that cause a viewer to think without giving him/her easy answers. That's why I'm not liveblogging it. One can comment on Project Runway without mentally shifting above second gear. Battlestar Galactica -- or commonly, BSG -- requires digestion overnight before one can say anything worthwhile. And I simply don't have the time.

It's as close to philosophical art I've seen the medium get while still managing to connect to an audience (caveat: I don't have the money to subscribe to HBO, which I hear does a fair job in this mien as well).

Science fiction can be hard to access, especially midstream. You not only need to understand the characters and plotlines, but also the setting and often technology and jargon. The nice people at Sci-Fi have set up an eight-minute introductory video that sets the stage a bit. Give yourself a couple episodes after that and you'll sort things out. Better yet, talk to a fan of the show.

BSG is back, and I am thrilled.

And if anybody on the show writes a word that stains the serene heroic mein of President Laura Roslin, there will be hell to pay.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Whoopsie! State reps "accidentally" vote the wrong way on casinos

I was performing some research in the course of writing up my excitement that Senator Robert Creedon was going to retire when I came across something odd.

According to the Globe's coverage of March 20th's vote on Deval's casino package, two representatives accidentally voted the wrong way. The two of them, Representatives Poirier and Ross meant to vote to essentially kill Deval's casino resorts, but ended up voting to keep it alive. (In the exact quote "Reps. Poirier and Ross indicated after the vote that they had both intended to vote 'yes' instead of 'no'") Two out of 152 votes were cast incorrectly. This leads to the following possibilities, as far as I can see:

1) On the most publicized and possibly most important vote of the legislative session, two of our educated professionals couldn't correctly cast a vote. Representatives Poirier and Ross pressed the wrong button at a moment when it mattered most. This is atypical for a state rep, and could raise pointed questions about the abilities of Reps. Poirier and Ross to do their jobs. If they can't press the right button, can they do the hard stuff? I mean, it's not as if they accidentally voted to declare February "National Orchid Awareness Month" or something...this was the BIG VOTE.

2) On average, state representative vote the wrong way 1% of the time, and nobody knows or cares. Shouldn't we?

3) The state reps support casinos, but at the same time are terrified of revenge from Speaker DiMasi. So they are trying to appease both sides by saying that they voted for casinos, but didn't mean it. They are dishonest.

4) The state reps do not support casinos, but felt some compunction to vote for them. Maybe they figured it was going down in flames, so they could get what they wanted while still making nice with Deval or the money people behind the idea. They are dishonest and possibly greedy.

Dishonesty or incompetence, those are your choices. What am I missing here?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A glimpse of teaching today...

Say a Massachusetts school is struggling, and the Department of Education is concerned. Do they bring in veteran teachers from other districts come in to share ideas? Do they free up emergency resources No. They send a group of academics whose classroom days are long behind them to judge teacher performance according to arcane and unproven criteria. A veteran teacher in Worcester describes it:

I am stunned. A dozen men and women file into my room like a colony of ants, invading every nook and cranny of my second-grade classroom. Poking into files, looking for evidence to prove that I, the teacher, am the reason my students are not passing MCAS, the Massachusetts state test.

What they notice:

Observers from the Department of Education (DOE) want to see if I use "best practices" to teach my 7-year-olds "higher level thinking skills." In this 30-minute period, I must demonstrate that I use probing questions, a technique called "think-pair-share," that I am not the center of attention but a "facilitator,"

What they don't notice:

A little mouse poking his head between my metal racks, somewhere in the midst of the glue cups and scissors...wannabe gang members wearing their gang colors in second grade...[a beating] by a child on the playground when I tried to stop him from striking another child’s head into the ground.

I wonder how many times government bureaucrats decades removed from practicing medicine crowd into a dilapidated operating room during surgery, scribbling on notepads about the absence of leeches. I wonder how often they try to blame the surgeon for not saving a morbidly obese, elderly man dying of his fourth heart attack.

I wonder how many times paper-pushers who enjoy Matlock sit in run-down courtrooms taking notes on the use of English legal strategems bt the attorneys. I wonder how often they to blame the district attorney for not convicting a suspect with no record and an ironclad alibi.

I wonder how many times desk warriors clog up antiquated firehouse, scratching copious observations during training on worn-out equipment. I wonder how often they blame the firemen for not putting out a raging fire at a hardware store when they receive the call 30 minutes after it starts.

I don't wonder why so many people are clueless about what's going on in public schools.